There are few things that are indisputable when trying to learn about another individual.  It all begins with trust.  Here’s what I know to be true:

 

  • No one is going to open up to another individual if they don’t trust him or her.
  • Trust is earned.
  • Trust is earned by asking questions, and listening.
  • The questions that are asked must be sincere, and must allow individuals to tell “their story.”

 

I recently had a conversation with my buddy Bubba, a salesman whom I’ve known for over twenty years.  He is one of the best salesmen I’ve ever met.  We were talking about questions we can ask that help to build trust between people, and questions that allow us to learn volumes about another person.  He shared a question that I found to be the best question I’ve ever come across. 

 

Now, before I present you with the best question I’ve ever come across, I should probably mention the two characteristics of a very good question.

 

First, it should be an open question.  Open questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” When asking questions and trying to create trust, we are not “interrogating” another individual. Open questions require a more thoughtful response from those who are answering it, and the more someone talks, the more they like the person they are talking to.

 

Second, it should be a question that did not involve a particular problem.  Don’t get me wrong, at some point we will ask questions that are not as comfortable to answer, but those questions have to wait until trust has been established.

 

So we know that if we are going to use questions to create trust, those initial questions are critical.  That’s why the simplicity and effectiveness of the following question resonated so deeply within me.  The question was this:

 

“Everyone has a story.  I’m interested in listening to yours.  Could you tell me your story?”

 

You would be amazed at where that question can lead.  The answer to that particular question can provide an instant window into another person’s personality, just by the depth of his or her response.  The answer to that question can provide information that someone may rarely tell another individual.  The truth is that people want to tell other people their story.  The beauty of this question is that it’s non-threatening to the people you’re asking; they can answer with as much or as little depth as they feel comfortable.

 

The next time you are in a situation where you really want to get to know another person, and you want to begin to create trust, ask that question.  Then settle back, and listen carefully.  There’s no telling where the story might end up, but conversation will end in a deeper level of trust.  Thanks Bubba.

 

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